Thursday, 3 December 2020
Australia's Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020, Australia's Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020; In Committee
I have to respond to that. When I hear the Greens talk in this chamber I sometimes wonder whether they are really here to represent the Australian people, when all the time they're talking about overseas countries or foreign students, as they are in this case. I wonder if they have really taken the time to speak to the government to understand why the universities have been included in this bill. Have you really followed up to get some understanding about why they are in the bill?
This is about national interest, our safety. What we've found is that, even in the case of students, universities are collaborating and working with the Chinese government in research programs. On top of their jobs with universities, they're getting paid up to $150,000. We don't know what they're doing. We've built up our national security in this country in relation to cyberattacks and things like that. It is quite understandable to say that, if any agreements are taken up by universities with other foreign countries, we must know what those agreements are, pure and simple. To drag foreign students into this, saying it is about taking food out of their stomachs, is a load of rubbish as far as I'm concerned. Stick with what this bill is about. If you really care about this country, about the national interest, then you'll stand up and support this bill.
I think this is quite sensible and feasible. We've spoken about private universities being included in this. I suggested to the government that they send a letter to them and invite them to be part of this. A lot of people in the universities don't understand what the government, ASIO or the Federal Police know is going on. They should be working with the foreign affairs department. So I have no problem with it. Instead of whinging and complaining about legislation, how many of you, even on the Labor side, have really taken the time to sit down and talk to the government about their legislation and the impact this is having? This whinging and complaining goes on all the time. Half the time you don't really know the full guts of the bill.